For the past six years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a guest host for The Telluride Horror Show. With nine years now in the books, we can safely say we’re growing bigger every year. We’re also getting better, more enthusiastic crowds, and expanding the size and scope of the whole shebang. What follows are some of the highlights from the programs I hosted on day one. Stay tuned for a wrap up of the second and third days shortly.
The afternoon kicked off with a half dozen short films centered around themes of motherhood. There were some fights to be sure. The Mother of a Sacred Lamb served up a mediation on grief with a mother deadset on believing her missing child has returned home. The problem is two children went missing, and one unidentifiable corpse has turned up to date. When another boy turns up with his face hidden by a mask, two mothers struggle to the death to claim him as their own flesh and blood. There’s a brooding atmosphere throughout this short and it allows the audience to make up their own mind regarding the truth. Monstergram was a brief, funny short about the kind of moms that post endless pictures of their kids on social media with a thirst for likes. If Milk had cut to credits at a specific moment at about the halfway point, it would have earned my vote for most unnerving short of the year. As it is, it’s wonderfully shot, with a maternal figure cloaked in shadows and darkness and giving off just the right touch of menace. Word is there’s a feature in the works, though it’s yet to be seen if this could mimic the success of Mama or lights Out.
This was the line feature I could make for day one, and there are no regrets on my front. This is a tense thriller, and a nice piece of survival horror. About 95% of the film takes place in a singular location: an eerie abandoned sailboat that drifts in from a dense fog. Soon our line voyager finds himself stranded on this new vessel, with no operational navigation tools and a bare minimum of working equipment. As he tries to make his way back to land, an escalating series of events details him. The film leaves it open ended whether it’s an epic run of bad luck or something more sinister and otherworldly at play.
He Boat contains an absolute dynamic sound mix and score that help heighten the tension. Despite having no one else to play off, Joe Azzopardi (who also co-wrote the film with his brother and director Winston) delivers a solid performance, doing most of the heavy lifting with his facial expressions and eyes. About a third of the film takes place inside a locked, cramped bathroom, and there’s white-knuckle suspense as to how the sailor is going to get himself free as a storm pound the boat. The ambiguity works, as the filmmakers trust the audience to arrive at their own conclusions without tipping their hand in either direction until the end.
THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING shorts block
Here be the monsters. This was ninety minutes of fantastic creature designs and blood soaked mayhem The Hidebehind adapts area folklore for the story of a line hunter playing a game of cat and mouse with a mischievous demon of the woods. Mongers is a heavy metal blast where one conspiracy theorist discovers his neighbors may not be all they appear. Catcalls finds one pervert getting his comeuppance when he messes with the pair of women. Penny Whistle finds a neglected young girl getting more than she bargained for in the form of a playful and curious demon child.
This block of films is meant to end the night with audience feeling bad about themselves and questioning every choice that led them to the theater that evening. Pain and shame were the guy feelings the films go for. Unfortunately, I missed most of this block after introducing it in order to set up for our special event, but judging by audience feedback the next day, we hit our mark.